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An Eye for Art: Architect Dean Camlin enjoys creativity in design, that buildings will outlast him

Architect Dean Camlin is shown in front of Target Inc.
Architect Dean Camlin is shown in front of Target Inc. (Courtesy photo)

Well-known architect Dean Camlin lives in Westminster.  

“My mother was an artist,” Camlin related. “She did oil paintings and drawings. I inherited an interest in art from her. I also inherited an interest in engineering from my father who was a manufacturing engineer.

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“My interest in architecture was from my grandfather, who was an architect for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Whenever we would visit my grandparents, he would have blueprints laying around. I would pick them up and try to figure out what he was building. One of the reasons I use my middle name in business is that it was my grandfather’s name, Robert.”

Camlin could figure the plans out and what the drawings were showing. Things such as train terminals and ticket booths were some of Camlin’s grandfather’s designs he perused.

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As Camlin grew up, he was interested in science fiction and did paintings of space such as the Pioneer 10 space probe flying by Saturn and a Space Station from “Star Trek.”

Camlin attended Wissahickon High School in Ambler, Pennsylvania, where he took drafting courses. Then the family moved to northeast Ohio where he finished high school.

He attended Kent State University in Ohio and majored in architecture. Camlin’s first job in architecture was while he was still in college. He had a summer job as a draftsman working for a structural steel detailer. The company produced shop drawings, drawings that are produced to fabricate the steel used to build buildings.

After four years he graduated with a degree in architecture in 1977. Camlin was anxious to  graduate from college where he was only able to study the theory of architecture. He wanted to design real buildings.

The first thing Camlin did when he graduated was to get on his bicycle and pedal east. His parents had moved a month before his college graduation so his bike trip took him over Appalachian Mountains arriving at this parent’s new home in Glen Burnie after three weeks. He did six days of pedaling and some touring along the way.

On his bicycle trip, Camlin stopped to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s home Fallingwater. He liked how different the house was and what an Avant Garde approach it was to build over a water fall. What a genius idea it was. It would not be possible today because of environmental laws and it would cause perpetual water problems.

Camlin’s first full-time position was working for a general architect in Columbia. One project he remembers was a nine-story residential condominium in Washington, DC.

Next, he was offered a job with Development Company of America where he was project manager for industrial development for 3 1/2 years. When Camlin came to live in Westminster, he rented a four-bedroom house on Pennsylvania Avenue, too large for a single person, so he sublet rooms. Camlin wound up marrying one of his tenants. At around the same time, Camlin and his wife purchased the house. They lived there for 34 years before selling it to McDaniel College.

After he was married, Camlin decided to pay more attention to his career. As a result, he took a position with the only architect in town, Melvin Arbaugh, in early 1982. Arbaugh had been awarded a contract to design new buildings for Random House and he needed help for such a large project.

One of the first projects Camlin did for Arbaugh was to design a new entrance for Carroll Hospital.

One of the most aesthetically pleasing projects he worked on was the sanctuary for the Church of the Open Door. The floor plan is the shape of a cut diamond with two long sides and two short sides and a long side across the top. There is a baptistry at the point of the diamond.

Twenty-five years ago, Camlin designed Building 5 for Penguin Random house. From Md. 27, passing cars can see alternate stripes of different colors of metal siding.

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To make the long building more interesting, the colors start lighter but as you go toward the eastern end they gradually present a darker contrast. It seems like a big empty metal box but there are a lot of interesting engineering aspects inside. It is 70 feet tall, and when the wind blows, the building can sway nearly a foot-and-a-half — so none of the interior storage racks could be attached to the walls. The building also contains almost 10 miles of plastic heating piping cast into the super-flat floor, and is supported by a forest of auger-cast pilings.

Camlin bought Arbaugh’s business in 1991. The name now is Dean Robert Camlin & Associates, Inc. (www.drcamlin.com).

When the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce decided to move to the Winchester Exchange in Downtown Westminster, Josh Kohn, of Kohn Creative (kohncreative.com), did a design for the interior. Camlin drew the construction drawings. He is responsible for president Mike McMullin’s curved wall for his office. Camlin also made sure the office was compliant with ADA.

One-third of Camlin’s work today is residential, both new houses and alterations. One new house he is designing is at the intersection of Ridge Road and Bond Street, where Timothy Hatfield is developing a project called Pierced Wood.

It uses a wall system called ICF which stands for insulated concrete forms. They are basically hollow polystyrene foam blocks that stack on each other. The core is filled with concrete. The blocks act as a concrete form with siding on the outside and drywall on the inside. It is a very energy efficient house.

Camlin is moving his office to 8 North Court St in Westminster. He plans to retire in a few years to return to his love of biking and ride across the country — but first has to get used to his new recumbent bike.

Camlin is involved in the local community. He has been a member of the Bonds Meadow Rotary Club for 21 years, is the sole remaining charter member of the Westminster Historic District Commission and a past board member of the Carroll Players, the Carroll County Arts Council, the Community Foundation of Carroll County  and the Historical Society of Carroll County. He has been an Area Representative to the Maryland Historical Trust board of trustees for 19 years.

“I like the fact that I am always working on something different, and that these buildings will be something that will outlast me,” Camlin.

He can be contacted at 410-876-6900 or by email, dcamlin@drcamlin.com.

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